For the love of you pet: Dog's coughing can be from variety of causes

May 22, 2014 at 12:22 a.m.

By Shana Bohac

A very common question we see in our office is, "Why does my dog have a hacking cough?"

Owners typically complain that the cough starts with a big hack and end with what looks like throwing up with nothing coming out. There are a couple of common things that can cause these symptoms, including allergies, reverse sneezing, kennel cough and heartworm disease.

Wind and cold fronts blow in a lot of allergens. Our pets are susceptible to allergies just like we are. They might not sneeze or cough as often as we do, but instead, they have a lot of sinus drainage, causing a buildup of froth in the throat and sometimes, an upset stomach. This drainage causes this hacking cough and swollen or sore throats.

If this is continually left untreated, an infection can occur. Many pets are using daily antihistamines to help control their allergies. If you start tracking your pet and notice they seem to only have this problem in spring and fall, then you can treat during these times only instead of year round.

Another reason for this type of cough is something referred to as reverse sneezing. A lot of owners believe their pets are having an asthma attack or choking when really they are just reverse sneezing. They often get hunchbacked and appear to be having trouble drawing in air.

This is usually caused by throat irritation and is similar to us clearing our throats. To differentiate between a reverse sneeze and a chocking/asthma patient, you can look at the pet's gum color. Those who are simply reverse sneezing have pink or red gum coloration, but those truly struggling to catch their breath will have pale pink, purple or blue gum color.

Bordetella, or kennel cough, causes a deep, honking cough that is spread from dog to dog through sharing of bowls, nose-to-nose contact, sharing of kennel space, etc. There is a vaccine available to help protect your pet if he or she is ever spending time at a grooming facility, boarding facility or having nose-to-nose contact with other dogs (park, play dates, pet stores, etc.)

Heartworm disease can also cause a deep cough. Heartworms are spread by mosquitos and are a big problem in South Texas. The worms become mature in the heart, which causes a lot of problems, usually including a cough. A heartworm test can be run in the clinic with only three drops of blood and 10 minutes time. Heartworms are treatable, but treatment can be costly. Prevention can be given monthly via oral medication or topical administration or every six months in an injectable from your veterinarian.

You should always consult a veterinarian if your pet has a cough, in order to determine the best treatment for your case.

Dr. Shana Bohac has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. She works on both small animals and equine patients. Submit questions to



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